MindFire Communications, Inc.
Education + Marketing = Engagement
July 24, 2013 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

I have a passion for both marketing and education. And those two passions are colliding beautifully in the new world of content marketing.

It’s no secret that consumers are tired of traditional marketing. They are taking back control of when, where and how they interact with marketing-related content.

That’s why brands are putting their resources into social media and permission-based marketing, looking for ways to allow consumers the control they want and the information they need.

In many cases, the information consumers are seeking is content that helps them make solid purchase decisions.

According to William Butler Yeats, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks to content marketing, we have the opportunity to light fires of brand loyalty with targeted educational information. We also have the obligation to make that content engaging and interesting, or the spark will sputter, and consumers will move on to something more interesting. No engagement means no marketing has taken place.

As you work on developing your content marketing strategy, keep the basics of education in mind. Put on your teacher hat for a moment, and start with three key questions:

1. What do they already know?

2. What do I want them to know?

3. How will I know they’ve reached mastery?

Brands that place a priority on educating their prospects and customers through the development of engaging content are headed in the right direction.

The truth is consumers don’t really care about our products or services. They care about themselves. That means the content we develop for marketing purposes cannot be about us. It has to be about the needs and interests of our prospects and customers.

When we focus on what our prospects and customers want and need, and the information and expertise we have that can help them reach their goals, we have the opportunity to truly engage with consumers.

What do they already know?

Before you can answer this question, you have to know your target market. That means you have to know a lot more than basic demographics.

What do your targeted customers already know? Do they know about your category? Do they understand what makes your product different or special? Do they know how a product or service like yours can solve a problem for them?

People tune out quickly when you tell them something they already know. However, when you acknowledge their background knowledge and skills and connect that information to new information, you’ll get their attention. Building on what people already know is a proven educational strategy that works in marketing too.

What do I want them to know?

Start with the end in mind. What do your customers need to know or understand in order for them to see your product or service as the ideal solution for them?

Be aware that not all potential customers are alike. Some will be farther down the awareness and education path than others. That means you need a range of content, organized in ways that make it easy for consumers to jump in at a level that’s right for them.

Ultimately, the content you develop has to help you sell more, lower expenses or create happier customers. None of those things are going to happen if your content is not engaging. Don’t make the mistake of thinking educationally-focused content marketing has to be serious or academic. Boring content is content that no one reads. The more we can educate or entertain prospects or customers, the more they don’t mind being marketed to.

How will I know they have reached mastery?

Marketing measurement is more important than ever. Fortunately, it’s also more possible than ever before.

You need criteria for assessing if your prospects and customers understand and are using the information you’re presenting in your content marketing. That criteria needs to be closely connected to your overall marketing objective.

If your content is focused on a specific product, your measurement may be as straightforward as sales numbers. Those with a longer sales cycle will need measurement of the phases leading up to the sale, targeting information related to online interactions, requests for a white paper, blog traffic statistics, time spent on specific categories of content, etc.

This article originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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